Sexual assault hotline launched for troops
Published: April 15, 2011
WASHINGTON – Still struggling with sexual assaults in the military – more than 3,000 reported cases last year – the Pentagon is launching a global 24-hour hotline for victims seeking help, advice or information.
Troops will be able to access crisis support services, called Safe Helpline, through a phone call, text or online.
“Safe Helpline provides live, anonymous, one-on-one expert advice and information to the worldwide DoD community,” said a Pentagon a statement released Thursday. It will be operated by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, known as RAINN.
DOD officials hope the new program's anonymous one-on-one help encourages more victims to report their abuses.
“Underreporting poses a serious challenge to military readiness," the Pentagon said, "as the potential costs and consequences of sexual assault are extremely high."
The hotline rollout comes two days after Reps. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, and Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., introduced a bill that would give much more aggressive protections and relief to military sexual assault victims.
Many of the bill’s measures are not new, Stars and Stripes reported, but it would allow victims to immediately transfer out of their units to avoid their attacker and seek confidential lawyering advice without having to publicly accuse their attacker.
For now, however, the hotline is only available to active duty, Reserve and National Guard personnel, and any person eligible to receive treatment in military medical treatment facilities.
It does not include overseas DOD civilians and their families or American contractors outside the continental U.S. in warzones. Also, active-duty troops looking for counseling on a sexual assault that occurred before their service also are ineligible.
The Pentagon hopes those restrictions will be lifted this year.
To contact Safe Helpline, call 877-995-5247; text 55-247 (inside the U.S.) or 202-470-5546 (outside the U.S.); or visit www.SafeHelpline.org.